Milan can attract businesses that leave London post-Brexit: Italian FM

"Who says the businesses leaving London have to go to Frankfurt?" the Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, said on Tuesday, in a press conference which touched on Brexit, Donald Trump, and promoting the 'Made in Italy' brand abroad.

Milan can attract businesses that leave London post-Brexit: Italian FM
The cathedral in the northern business hub of Milan. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

He argued that businesses planning to relocate after Britain's vote to leave the EU should set their sights on Milan, and said that the government was setting up a 'task force' to attract businesses to the northern city.

“The government is Team Milan in the post-Brexit game [to attract businesses]” said the minister, speaking at the 'Economic Diplomacy' conference organized by Italy's employers' federation Confindustria. “Milan has all the numbers to attract these investments, and we have the ability to attract the companies that decide to leave London.”

Alfano addressed the impact of the Foreign Ministry on economic growth, for example in promoting Italian businesses abroad and supporting companies with international growth.

“We have a chance to be even stronger,” said Alfano. “At this time of resurgent protectionism, it is unacceptable for some to expect to come and frolic in our market, and then our businesses get stuck in their political and bureaucratic constraints, which create problems.”

His comments could be seen as attacking the British prime minister Theresa May's comments on Brexit – or US President Donald Trump's 'America First' economic policy.

The minister added that he planned to put a particular emphasis on taking small and medium-sized businesses abroad, and promoting the 'Made in Italy' brand, by taking action against fraudulent uses of Italian branding.

Online sales of foreign fake parmesan alone cost the country €60 million each year, according to Italy's Agricultural Ministry, and despite crackdowns from the government, Italian producers are left struggling to compete with foreign counterfeit products which are quicker and cheaper to make.

At Tuesday's conference, Alfano also spoke about US President Donald Trump and his temporary ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Having said earlier that the EU was in no position to criticize the ban, Alfano made it clear that he did not agree with Trump's strategy, saying: “We have been able to marry humanity, solidarity and security in a country that has so far had zero attacks, in a world where there's no such thing as zero risk”.

“At the same time we have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” Alfano added, referring to the work of rescuers who have brought tens of thousands of migrants to Italian shores following boat capsizes.

The Italian foreign minister said that in imposing the ban, Trump was “doing what he said he would during the campaign, he's doing what he promised and we don't share [his views],” financial daily Il Sole 24 ore reported.

IN DEPTH: Why Milan could be Europe's post-Brexit financial hub


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Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy beyond the end of this year, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

Many of The Local’s British readers have been in touch recently to ask whether any progress has been made in negotiations between the UK and Italy on a reciprocal agreement on the use of driving licences.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With five months left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

This message has not changed.

On Wednesday, July 27th, British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn tweeted after a meeting with Italian Infrastructure and Transport Minister Enrico Giovannini: “The British and Italian governments continue to work towards an agreement on exchange of driving licences.”

But the ambassador earlier this month advised UK nationals “not to wait” and to “take action now by applying for an Italian licence”.

In an official newsletter published in mid-July, Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on.

“I know that many of you are understandably concerned about whether your UK driving licence will continue to be recognised in Italy, especially when the extension granted by Italy until 31 December 2022 for such recognition expires.

“Let me set out where things stand. The British Government is working to reach an agreement with Italy on the right to exchange a licence without the need for a test. 

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

“The discussions with our Italian colleagues are continuing and our objective is to try to reach an agreement in good time before the end of the year.

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We will continue to work towards an agreement,” he wrote. “That is our objective and it is an objective we share with our Italian colleagues.“

The British Embassy in Rome had not responded to The Local’s requests for further comment on Friday.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.